If Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief didn’t sound sufficient alarms concerning director Seth Gordon’s questionable comedic taste, Baywatch provides the air raid siren heard ‘round the world.
Billed as a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the ‘90s TV show that solidified the cliché of swimsuit-clad women running in slow motion, the film proper delivers nothing resembling the mammoth laughs of would-be peers CHiPS and the Jump Street series.
Blame a slapdash first draft of a script that can’t even make Hannibal Buress funny. Honestly, what does the writing team behind Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake know about making people laugh – especially when four other writers receive Story By credit?
Gordon and these knuckleheads’ comic kryptonite likewise extends to the occasionally reliable Dwayne Johnson – at his worst as chief lifeguard Mitch Buchannon – and the rarely inconsistent Zac Efron, whose turn as disgraced gold medal swimmer Matt Brody makes his recent string of smart selections look like a fluke.
Their alleged veteran/rookie rivalry a non-factor and none of the supporting players – including Mitch’s clear second in command, Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera) – receiving what may be construed as character development, Baywatch rests its hopes on a microscopic plot involving Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) bribing and knocking off a series of figures influential and anonymous in order to expand her business.
As the make-believe law enforcers put on plastic badges and seek to solve the case, minor amusement arises from actual police officer Sgt. Ellerbee (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) both keeping the lifeguards in their place and desiring their approval.
The same may not be said for some of the laziest male genitalia gags in modern cinema, much of it at the expense of nerdy recruit Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass), nor the string of predictable insulting nicknames Mitch lobs at Matt, including – wait for it – “High School Musical.”
Poorly executed action sequences and the usual bevy of male gaze issues add to the nearly two hours of drudgery, making Baywatch the rare comedy where it’s imperative to exit the theater before the blooper reel rolls.
Grade: D. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Paramount Pictures)